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Missy Cummings, Talking Artificial Intelligence at Davos

Pratt professor returns to forum for presentation

Among those presenting at last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, was Mary “Missy” Cummings, a Duke professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science whose areas of expertise include artificial intelligence.

Duke Today asked Cummings, who has presented before at the forum, about this year’s event.

Q: How, if at all, was the mood at Davos different this year than in previous years in which you have attended?

CUMMINGS: Interestingly I did not see any real difference in the overall mood over last year, but (President) Trump’s presence certainly created a buzz that was not as palpable as last year.

Q: What were the three major points that you made during your presentation this year?

CUMMINGS: My three major points that I made throughout my multiple appearances were:


  1. AI is not a magic bullet technology that will solve problems. It is a tool that can be used to augment and enhance current practices but also carries unforeseen risks.
  2. Companies, regulatory agencies, and universities are not doing enough research and development in the testing and certification of AI and related technologies.
  3. Universities cannot produce enough talent to meet the growing AI demand and we need to rethink collegiate degrees as well as refresher courses that are needed throughout the lives of employees.


Q: How did you spend your time when you were not presenting?

CUMMINGS: When I wasn’t presenting, I was either doing interviews or attending strategic planning meetings, with sadly no time for snowboarding, which is one of my favorite pastimes. Highlights included swapping stories with Stephen Pinker about crazy AI stories, seeing an exhibition about the first female shaman of the Amazonian Yawanawá people, and eating an Impossible Burger -- a plant-based meat derivative that was absolutely delicious and tasted just like ground beef.